Mother’s Day in the US is just around the corner, but our Mozambican ladies celebrated last Sunday and our Salvadoran women are celebrating today (on Thursday) while the mamas in Uganda are on the same schedule with North America. I think it’s rather fitting that it’s nearly an entire week recognizing and honoring the mothers, the mommies, the mamas, the mas of the world.
Before I became a mother, I listened with empathy as women trafficked as children would explain that though they hated commercial sex and prostitution, it was the only way they knew how to make a buck and their priority was feeding and protecting their children. If they needed to sacrifice their dignity, their safety, and their bodies in order to provide for their kiddos, then so be it. “So sad,” I would think and then give their children hugs or tickles and then move on to discuss what the next steps were. But shortly after I returned from maternity leave last year, I looked down at my precious daughter that I was wearing in a wrap while working and began to sob. Those stories and the sentiments they had been expressing not just as women but as mothers came flooding back to me, and I finally understood that kind of love in a new way – I, too, would sacrifice so much, if not everything, in order to ensure my baby girl was taken care of.
Truthfully, the birth of my daughter lit a new kind of fire under me for these women. Nearly every lady in our program is a mama and a good one at that, loving and providing for them the best way she knows how.
We’ve teased a bit about our new location we’re opening up this year (be patient – we’ll share more as soon as we can!), and many of the new women entering into the bra-selling business are mamas as well. When asked about what her hopes and dreams were about her new enterprise, one woman said, “Well, first I want to leave the streets. That’s the most important thing. I need it - I have 2 girls who are growing up and I need them to see a different person in me.”
Another said, “What I’ve always wished to do is leave the streets. I have always fought for [my children] so they could study. I want [my young daughter] to do something with her life. Even if I don’t get to see her graduate, as a mother, I want her off the streets.”
Another spoke of how she’s been leading a double-life for so many years, trying to protect her children from knowing what she does. She doesn’t want them ashamed of her as she’s trying to put them through school and longs for the day she can be honest and open about what she does so they can be as proud of her as she is of them.
When you donate a bra and give financially, you are contributing to these women changing not just their own lives but generations to come, entire communities.
One of my favorite moments from my 2016 trip to Mozambique was watching Fatima’s 15 year old daughter look at her mama with a mixture of pride and awe while Fatima told us her story. This daughter has high hopes and dreams of becoming an engineer – and the best part is she knows it’s possible because she has seen the pit her mother has fought her way out of,
from a life of desperation and abuse to one of independence and true freedom.
The legacy these women are leaving for their children, the breaking of generational poverty and oppression, the change of trajectory for their entire families is breathtaking.
Two of our staff members are in San Salvador right now and were able to celebrate Mother’s Day with the women there. Mother’s Day is a huge celebration in El Salvador – businesses shut down, people get the day off of work to spend time with their families – so our staff asked the women in the middle of the party what motherhood meant to them. These are women who own thriving businesses and are putting their children through school through their businesses. Look at these beautiful answers:
What does motherhood mean to you?
“A mom is something special….It’s hard and painful with all I have been through. But when I can make a living and have my mom over, it makes me happy. Seeing my children - kissing and loving on them - gives me joy!”
“There's nothing easy about being a mom, but we move forward and do our best. There’s something fundamental for us to know we are an example for our kids. I’m grateful for God to give us strength!”
“Surrendering and commitment. It’s mothering with love, even those that are not yours.”
“The love a mom has for her child is like the love of God. It’s a privilege to be a mom. [The women here in this program] often have to be mom and dad.”
So this week, we celebrate our moms – our biological ones, our foster ones, our adoptive ones, our surrogate ones. We recognize the women that may not be our mothers but have taught us so much about life and love and family. We acknowledge the sacrifice and joy and pain and indescribable joy that all forms of motherhood have had on the women we call or look up to as mom.
And we lift up other women. We won’t judge those that have twelve children nor those who choose not to have children. We will sit and listen to the mama who is at her wit’s end and needs a good cry as well as the women who have a deep, deep longing for a child of their own. We will high-five the working mother who is balancing work and family as well as the stay-at-home mama who may be balancing family and identity.
And we will certainly see and acknowledge and celebrate the mamas all around the world who are sacrificing in large and small ways. We will honor the women in our program who have been, who are, and who are preparing to work so hard to ensure a better life for herself and her children and her grandchildren.
If you'd like to make a contribution to Free The Girls on behalf of these mamas or perhaps your own mama, please click here. We'd be honored to have you share in our Mother's Day festivities with us.
Written by Courtney Skiera-Vaughn